Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Lenny, I've always considered you the Dutch Elm disease in my family tree - Lex Luthor
I honestly thought that "Superman III" was not a good movie but after watching "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" it makes it predecessor seem so much better. It pains me to say this but "Superman IV" is a terrible movie with almost everything about it, from the storyline, the acting and most notably the special effects all adding to the overall terrible-ness. In fact I am lost for words as to how bad "Superman IV" is and the only thing which stops it from being completely and utterly void of anything good comes from the fact that Gene Hackman returns and Margot Kidder has a little more to do. If it wasn't for these two returning actors and their characters "Superman IV" would have been the complete pits.
With the threat of nuclear war striking fear into the people of America Superman (Christopher Reeve) decides to rid the world of nuclear weapons and make it a better place. But unbeknown to him Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman - Hoosiers) has escaped from prison with the help of his nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer - Pretty in Pink) and is coming up with his next nefarious plan. That plan comes to fruition when he dupes Superman into sending another nuclear weapon hurtling into the sun and out of it comes Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow) who under Luthor's control goes on a rampage destroying the Great Wall of China and flying off with the statue of Liberty. But being the patriotic man of steel Superman not only tries to battle Nuclear Man but repair the trail of damage he leaves in his wake.
Now I know you don't expect complete and utter realism from a super hero movie but the storyline which gets served up during "Superman IV" is stupidly unrealistic. There are elements which work such as a sub plot surrounding The Daily Planet being taken over by a media hack and also the closeness of Lois Lane to Superman but they are minor elements in a basically wrong storyline. It all starts with a seriously overly patriotic Superman deciding to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the scenes of the man of steel flying nuclear rockets into space before throwing a cargo net full of them at the sun is painfully corny. But that is just one issue and although I welcome the return of Lex Luthor as Superman's nemesis the evolving storyline which sees him create Nuclear Man is both painful and corny. And it doesn't get any better as Superman battles Nuclear Man whilst also repairing Nuclear Man's destruction such as fixing The Great Wall of China in a blink of an eye and flying the Statue of Liberty back to its home. It's all so flipping wrong that it makes you angry that the "Superman" series has fallen so far that it tries to pass off this rubbish as a story.
But I have to bring it up again and the patriotism which dominates so much of "Superman IV" is just all wrong. It's all very false as we have Superman dishing out jingoistic platitudes as he decides to make America his home once and for all. You begin to realise what a great actor Christopher Reeve was for the simple reason he manage to deliver this over the top patriotic dialogue with a straight face. Maybe in America it worked, maybe they were inspired by the man of steel giving advice like an over grown Boy Scout but it just feels all so false, forced and wrong this time around.
What is also very wrong are the special effects and like much of the dialogue they end up laughable. Where once watching Superman fly was a treat now it looks so fake that you wonder what happened. And that is just one issue as scenes supposedly on the moon where Superman battles Nuclear Man are just as poor as the black drapes are visible in the background. It would be easy to go on as there really isn't a single special effect in "Superman IV" which has the wow factor and mostly feel worse than in the original "Superman" movie despite technology movie on in the years in-between.
The saving grace, the one thing which stops "Superman IV" from being abysmal is that it has several returning faces all of which have more to do. So whilst the script doesn't do anyone any favours the fact we have Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper and Margot Kidder all returning with more to do helps it a little. And whilst Christopher Reeve does a good job of not cracking up when he has some nonsense to deliver it certainly feels like his heart wasn't in playing Superman anymore. As for the new characters which include Jon Cryer playing Lex's nephew Lenny, Mariel Hemingway as Lacy Warfield and Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man well none put in that great a performance but then it's in keeping with the actual movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Superman IV" is not a bad movie in fact it is a terrible movie with a list of faults as long as your arm. Its saving grace is that those characters we met in the first "Superman " are back and whilst the script doesn't help them watching Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper and Margot Kidder have more to do is better than having all new faces. But there is no disguising from being overly patriotic, stupidly unrealistic and full of dodgy special effects "Superman IV" ends up a complete and utter mess.
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